Advice before you recruit an artist for your game project– love, an artist. ♥

game dev

The great thing about the indie developer community these days is that it’s so easy to recruit people with similar interests for your projects. With the growing popularity of boards like /r/GameDevClassifieds and ‘wanted’ sections of forums like TIGSource, there are more professionals and amateurs at your fingertips now than ever. Great, huh?

However, with so many other people looking for others to help make their game dev dream come true (as well as the pool being widened by many unpaid and hobby/potential revenue-share projects), it’s best to be as prepared as possible when it comes to finally searching for that +1 for your team.

Scenario time. You’re looking to hire an artist to help you bring your game project to fruition. Awesome. But, here’s some things you should think about, or do, before you send out your tendrils to search for this person.

1.) Looking to recruit an artist to create in-game assets should not be the very first thing you do on your project.

It’s exciting to get the project into motion as quickly as possible by getting your team together in the same fashion, but sometimes this may be more detrimental than helpful. Recruiting an artist to make in-game assets before you have a solid idea of what you envision the game to be before your idea has gone through the inevitable revisions during the design teething, you will probably end up with assets being created you no longer envision fitting in with your game.

If you’re paying the artist, this will waste you money. Especially since indie groups are usually few in number and so the workload is higher on the individual, it’s best to be as crystal clear as possible from the outset so time can be managed most efficiently. Which brings us to…

2.) If you know it’s time to recruit an artist, give us lists. Lots of lists.

Great! It’s time for you to hire/recruit an artist for your project. The game design is done and you know exactly what you want your game to look like. Your next priority should then be creating a detailed list of the assets you want this artist to create, which should include:

  • rough dimensions, if not vector
  • a description of each asset (yes, even that one) and what it will be used for in game
  • if you already have an idea yourself of what it will look like, or have a reference of style etc., link the reference or sketch

and,

  • a deadline and priority for each asset, especially if it’s a paid gig and/or you’re on a tight timeframe

You may look at these points and think– hey, that’s a lot of work and time that it’d take to put into that, and yeah– it kinda is. However, the clearer you are about what you want and how you want it to look, honestly, the quicker your project will get done! If we know what you want, how you want it and when you want it, we’re extremely prepared as the artist on your project, and it’s only a good thing to be as informed and prepared as possible.

A great example is a spreadsheet like this (made on Google Docs, which is incidentally a great place for this sort of organizational mayhem):

example

(NB: The estimated time here was discussed between the artist and the project lead to make sure that the artist would be billed for the right amount of time spent when it came to payment. Numbers on the top right are dates of the month.)

All this said, sometimes the odd extra asset pops up with new feature implementation that you can’t foresee and such– this is okay! My point is just that you should have the large majority of assets, dimensions etc. figured out before you get your artist. The better you know your project, the better off your whole team will be.

3.) Set aside time to give OK’s and revisions on a regular basis.

This seems fairly standard, but I figured I’d say it anyway. If the artist has to correct something, it’s going to take time on their behalf and that time is only multiplied if you’re not around to give the feedback. A regular meeting face to face (or Skype call if the artist is remote) is wondrous.

Good communication OP.

4.) Keeping an artist interested in your hobby project.

I read recently some complaints from project leads about keeping artists interested in their hobby/rev-share project, and I totally agree, it’s tough keeping someone interested in giving you their skills for free (or ‘promised’ money) if it’s not their idea. As is often said, ideas in the game dev scene are a dime a dozen– everyone has them, it’s no secret. So, regarding keeping someone interested in your project there’s a few pieces of advice/hard truths I can give you:

  • the artist will almost always pass up your project for something paid, even if they’re partway through it
  • if you’re not very passionate about your project, investing the same time and effort in it as they are and are often very absent, they will probably lose their interest
  • if you can pay them, you should (though to be honest, this goes for anyone with a professional skill-set you’re recruiting into your project).
  • if your project is unpaid and they’re the only artist + it’s a huge game with a load of assets, chances are they’re going to lose interest (I recommend starting small)

Of course, this won’t always be the case 100% of the time– but this is just what I’ve seen from my own observations.

In summary:

  • WRITE LISTS, BRO
  • MAKE SURE YO GAME DESIGN (WHETHER IT’S GDD OR NOT) IS DONE AND THAT YOU ->
  • KNOW YO GAME
  • RESPECT YO ARTIST
  • IF YOU’RE DOING A HOBBY PROJECT, DON’T EXPECT THE WORLD FROM AN UNPAID ARTIST
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5 thoughts on “Advice before you recruit an artist for your game project– love, an artist. ♥

  1. This is all very, very true.

    I tried recruiting an artist for a board game project recently, and at first, she was extremely enthusiastic and willing to work for little compensation and the promise of future profit. Mind you, the game was also pretty far along in its development, and had prototype images as well.

    A month and a few design comps later, progress started to stagnate and communication waned. Another month later, I wasn’t even getting replies to my emails.

    I’m sure I did something wrong with the approach, probably a combination of one or two of the points above… I don’t know 🙂

  2. I’ve met a lot of people who transmit their “passion” as agression, rather than being supportive. Don’t do that.

  3. Excellent guide! I’m expecting to need some artists in the future and I’ll be keeping this in mind.

    Interesting how a lot of these tips also apply to freelance writers. I’ve contributed words to a few projects now, and can relate to the issues raised here.

    In the end, everything pretty much boils down to basic organisation, communication and courtesy. That’s key to any collaborative creative project – otherwise things just won’t work out.

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